This was a lazy Sunday. We decided we’d rather go out for lunch than make it ourselves, and we were both in the mood for a doorstopper of a sandwich. So we headed off, baby in tow, to our local deli, Jacobs & Field (15 Old High Street, Headington, OX3 9HP).
Since I was with my husband and we were passing the Baberoo back and forth, I had the luxury of using both hands to eat. I ordered the salt beef sandwich (£5.50) and a homemade lemonade (£2.75). My husband ordered the Merguez sausage sandwich (£5.50) and an Americano.
My sandwich proved very difficult to eat even with both hands free – the bread, while delicious, was falling apart with every bite and I ended up using my fork in the end. The salt beef and sauerkraut were both tasty and so was my husband’s Merguez sausage. I thought my lemonade was a bit too sugary, but it was refreshing nonetheless.
The brownie I ordered for dessert (£2.50), however, was a standout. Somehow they manage to cut the pieces in the pan so that you are guaranteed at least one ‘side’ piece; this is my favourite part of a brownie so I was very happy. I can also highly recommend their baklava, which I’ve had on several other occasions. It is the best baklava I’ve had anywhere in the UK, ever, including all the London-based Middle Eastern shops and restaurants.
So how did Jacobs & Field stack up against my five criteria for baby-friendliness? (See my About page for more information about how I rate the menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding for every place I review.)
Menu: Deli food, it seems, usually requires both hands. I pored over the list of sandwiches to see whether there was anything that sounded like it could be eaten one-handed, but Jacobs & Field are pretty generous with their fillings and I doubt that any of their offerings is dainty enough to be consumed while holding a child in one arm. Likewise with the breakfast menu, which always requires a knife and fork. There are some great pies and pasties, and if you’re particularly dextrous you could try eating those one-handed. But your best bet is the quiche or the salad bar, I’d say.
Space: The place is jam-packed both inside and outside, with as many tables as they can fit into the space, along with adornments, decor, and food stacked from floor to ceiling. This is great for customers unencumbered with baby carriages, but it’s quite difficult to fit one into the café. Even the outside tables are packed pretty close together and a pram would always be blocking someone’s exit. The exceptions to that are the two tables to the right of the entrance; those seem to be the best places to sit outside. Inside, there’s not much room in the front of the café for a pram, so you must traverse a narrow space by the counter to get through to the back seating, where it’s a little wider and there’s more space for a carriage. That narrow space is exactly where customers have to stand to order and pay for their food. Wait staff also need to go back and forth through the space. I had to wait a while to get through, but once I made it to the back we snagged the table with the comfy couch and parked the Baberoo between it and the (beautiful old-fashioned) water cooler. Because of the lack of space, I’d suggest going at non-peak times so you can wheel your carriage through to the back, or, alternatively, go on a day that’s not brilliantly sunny so that you have a hope of getting an outside seat.
Ambiance: A vintagey, home-grown vibe, with bunting strung all over and vintage china and homewares for sale alongside boxes and jars of deli delights, some produced by Jacobs & Field. It’s a very pretty place with a relaxed atmosphere. The music is very much in the background; I hardly noticed it at all except for when the Baberoo was bouncing up and down to ‘Rollin’ on the River’. It’s a bit warm inside, so be prepared to shed a layer or two. The staff are usually very friendly, although when it’s extremely busy they have less time to be attentive.
Facilities: This must be one of the cutest café bathrooms ever; it has displays of vintage china and homeware and framed artworks. The Baberoo really enjoyed staring up at the bunting-bedecked ceiling while we were in there, and the wooden counter was supplied with a baby-changing pad. Everything was clean and fresh-smelling and well-lit. There’s ample space to fit a baby carriage in with you, although to get it in you might have to ask someone at the table closest to the toilet to move their seat, which can block the door. I did feel slightly guilty that all the other patrons would have to wait for us – and diaper-changing sometimes takes a while – since it’s the only customer toilet and it’s constantly in use.
Feeding: The comfy couch where we were sitting also has plenty of pillows, so the Baberoo was mainly happy during her feed; other tables have smallish chairs so might be more difficult for comfort while feeding. No customers or staff seemed to care that we were breastfeeding. I got a smile of encouragement from one patron, which was nice.
My final score for Jacobs & Field is a 7.75 out of 10. If you’re solo with the baby, go at a time when they’re not very busy, order one of their brownies, and you’ll be in for a treat.